UK backs training to aid human rights investigation

With support from the British Embassy Manila, non-governmental organisation Medical Action Group will implement a project to improve the prosecution of human rights cases in the Philippines.

The Philippine Government has expressed its dedication to stamping out human rights violations in the country, making human rights protection and justice a priority objective. Furthermore, the passage of the Anti-Torture Act has resulted in more active documentation of incidents of torture. However, the lack of medical documentation standards for torture cases is a problem, which has often resulted in the rejection of medical evidence by the courts on grounds that it was not “scientific” enough.

The British Embassy Manila and non-governmental organisation Medical Action Group (MAG) have recently signed a contract to carry out a project that will improve the prosecution of human rights cases by increasing the capability of health professionals in providing proper documentation and expert testimony in court. The project will be undertaken with funding from the British Embassy’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme.

“The effective prosecution of the perpetrators of human rights violations is essential in upholding justice and human rights in the country. This project will have a direct impact on the ability to investigate and secure prosecutions by improving the quality of medical evidence in court cases. We will continue to support the Philippines in its efforts to implement international human rights standards,” said British Ambassador Stephen Lillie.

An estimated 150 public health doctors will participate in the training, from provinces with high incidences of human rights violations which include Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, Metro Manila, Abra and Misamis Occidental. The training will cover international human rights standards, rights-based approach and legal medicine for human rights cases.

The MAG training courses have already produced positive results. Just recently, the Commission on Human Rights’ Central Mindanao regional office filed a torture case against a police superintendent and his subordinates after it concluded that they mishandled two suspects. The conclusion was based on the medical examination by a MAG-trained physician of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Centre.

MAG has already forged an agreement with the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines (AMHOP) on co-operation in medico-legal investigation of human rights cases.